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Monday, April 9, 2018

KING'S CANYON NATIONAL PARK

Kings Canyon National Park is a national park in the southern Sierra Nevada, in Fresno and Tulare Counties, California in the United States. Originally established in 1890 as General Grant National Park, it was greatly expanded and renamed to Kings Canyon National Park on March 4, 940. General Grant National Park was initially created to protect a small area of giant sequoias from logging. Although John Muir's visits brought public attention to the huge wilderness area to the east, it took more than fifty years for the rest of Kings Canyon to be designated a national park. Environmental groups, park visitors and many local politicians wanted to see the area preserved; however, development interests wanted to build hydroelectric dams in the canyon. Even after President Franklin D. Roosevelt expanded the park in 1940, the fight continued until 1965, when the Cedar Grove and Tehipite Valley dam sites were finally annexed into the park.

As visitation rose post-World War II, further debate took place over whether the park should be developed as a tourist resort, or retained as a more natural environment restricted to simpler recreation such as hiking and camping. Ultimately, the preservation lobby prevailed and today, the park has only limited services and lodgings despite its size. Due to this and the lack of road access to most of the park, Kings Canyon remains the least visited of the major Sierra parks, You can reach King's Canyon through Sequoia or it has an entrance directly into the park. 

We had heard that the weather was going to be bad on Saturday with snow and rain, so we decided to try to get to King's Canyon on Friday.  We didn't want to be driving in snow and ice! We knew it was going to start raining in the afternoon late so we tried to go early and leave before the rain.  When we got to the park, most of the roads were closed from winter and would not be open until May.  Also, most of the hiking trails were closed too.  There is a grove of the giant sequoias, where the General Grant tree is located, and that was pretty much the only thing open. We stopped at one of the visitors' center and asked about driving to the view point of the canyon. We were told that we could only drive down to Hume Lake and on our way, we might get a glimpse of the canyon. We drove to the lake, but it was so cloudy and hazy, we couldn't see the canyon.

Needless to say, our day at King's Canyon was a bust.  We called it a day early. One good thing happened. After we got to lower ground, the sun decided to come out. With all the beautiful wildflowers out right now, the sun made for some neat pictures of the flowers! We are headed to Yosemite next. Rumors of possible flooding had Yosemite close down for the day on Saturday.  It was a false alarm and opened back up Sunday.  Cross your fingers for good weather!




One end of a fallen Sequoia

General Grant tree



Notice the fire hydrant

This fallen tree was where the men lived until the previous cabin was built

The other end of the tree




We couldn't be in Texas to take pics in the bluebonnets, so this will have to do.



Friday, April 6, 2018

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK

Once we decided to travel west this year, one of my bucket list visits was to Sequoia National Park.  I had to see the "big" trees.

We are staying in Lemon Cove in a private campground named Lemon Cove Village.  When Mr. W made the reservation, this park was listed in the Coast to Coast book.  He called to make reservations and was told by the office that they weren't  C2C. He called C2C to ask why they were in the book. C2C told him that they were C2C and he needed to call back.  He did and was told the same thing.  So, he called C2C and complained.  They told him that they didn't take anyone out of their book and as far as they knew, this park was C2C.  When we arrived, there was a sign in the office saying they were C2C.  Do what???? Mr. W started pressing the lady in the office.  She stuttered around and finally said that the owner had not gotten the paperwork in when Mr. W had called for reservations. They were now C2C but you had to give them 24 hour notice that you were C2C.  Hello?  We had given them 3 months notice.  She said it wasn't her call, it was the owner's call.  So, he made her call the owner. We got our C2C discount.  Geez!  It is a nice enough park and it is close to the entrance of Sequoia.  I'm just not sure that it is worth the cost even with the discount.  For those of you who boondock, there is a really nice campground on a beautiful lake that is on the road to Sequoia.  I think it is Horse Creek campground.

We went into Sequoia and slowly made our way through all the stops.  Our friend Terri was with us.  We didn't do any trails hikes.  Most of the roads are still closed.  Mr. W was very concerned about chains for the tires.  There were signs at the entrance and throughout that said the chains could be required at any time.  You can rent them from several stores on the road.  He was not sure they would have them to fit a pickup truck.  He called Pep Boys and they would sell them and if you do not use them, you can return them and get a refund except for a $20 restocking fee.  Pep Boys it was. 

One of the main attractions in Sequoia is the General Sherman tree.  It is the largest living tree. The General Sherman was named after the American Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman, in 1879 by naturalist James Wolverton, who had served as a lieutenant in the 9th Indiana Cavalry under Sherman. In 1931, following comparisons with the nearby General Grant tree, General Sherman was identified as the largest tree in the world. One result of this process was that wood volume became widely accepted as the standard for establishing and comparing the size of different trees.
In January 2006 the largest branch on the tree (seen most commonly, in older photos, as an "L" or golf-club shape, protruding from about a quarter of the way down the trunk) broke off. There were no witnesses to the incident, and the branch — larger than most tree trunks; diameter over 6.6 ft and length over 98 ft — smashed part of the perimeter fence and cratered the pavement of the surrounding walkway. The breakage is not believed to be indicative of any abnormalities in the tree's health, and may even be a natural defense mechanism against adverse weather conditions.


Look at the tiny people at the bottom.

Sequoia was established as a National Park on September 25, 1890.  The area which now comprises Sequoia National Park was first home to "Monachee" (Western Mono) Native Americans, who resided mainly in the Kaweah River drainage in the Foothills region of the park, though evidence of seasonal habitation exists as high as the Giant Forest. In the summertime, Native Americans would travel over the high mountain passes to trade with tribes to the East. To this day, pictographs can be found at several sites within the park, notably at Hospital Rock and Potwisha, as well as bedrock mortars used to process acorns, a staple food for the Monachee people.

Pictographs at Hospital Rock

By the time the first European settlers arrived in the area, smallpox had already spread to the region, decimating Native American populations. The first European settler to homestead in the area was Hale Tharp, who famously built a home out of a hollowed-out fallen giant sequoia log in the Giant Forest next to Log Meadow. Tharp allowed his cattle to graze the meadow, but at the same time had a respect for the grandeur of the forest and led early battles against logging in the area. From time to time, Tharp received visits from John Muir, who would stay at Tharp's log cabin. Tharp's Log can still be visited today in its original location in the Giant Forest. However, the trail is closed right now. It should open around April 27th. Ugh!

However, Tharp's attempts to conserve the giant sequoias were at first met with only limited success. In the 1880s, white settlers seeking to create a utopian society founded the Kaweah Colony, which sought economic success in trading Sequoia timber. However, Giant Sequoia trees, unlike their coast redwood relatives, were later discovered to splinter easily and therefore were ill-suited to timber harvesting, though thousands of trees were felled before logging operations finally ceased.

The National Park Service incorporated the Giant Forest into Sequoia National Park in 1890, the year of its founding, promptly ceasing all logging operations in the Giant Forest. The park has expanded several times over the decades to its present size; one of the most recent expansions occurred in 1978, when grassroots efforts, spearheaded by the Sierra Club, fought off attempts by the Walt Disney Corporation to purchase a high-alpine former mining site south of the park for use as a ski resort. This site known as Mineral King was annexed to the park. Its name dates back to early 1873 when the miners in the area formed the Mineral King Mining District.  Mineral King is the highest-elevation developed site within the park and a popular destination for backpackers.


Again, look at the people at the bottom.  All part of the Giant Forest.


A slice of one of the trees
Another major attraction in the park is Crystal Cave.  It is the second longest cave in the park at 3.4 miles long.  It is a constant 48 degrees.  It was discovered in 1918 and very well preserved for the amount of visitors it receives annually.  Caves are found every year in the park.  As a matter of fact, 17 have been found since 2003 alone.  Of course, you guessed it, Crystal Cave wasn't open.  A ranger did say that it wasn't because of snow, it was because of melting snow causing a lot of water in the cave.  The cave should open the first part of May.

The drive to and from the park was beautiful. We saw many beautiful wildflowers.  At least we were in primetime for wildflowers! If you decide to visit, you probably want to wait until May.  But, I'll take this visit! Check - One more off the bucket list.















Wednesday, April 4, 2018

BUCK OWEN'S CRYSTAL PALACE

We arrived in Bakersfield yesterday.  We were meeting up with our friends, Jim and Terri.  We stayed in River Run RV Park.  It is a very nice RV park.  The facilities were very modern and exceptionally maintained.  They give a 10% discount for Good Sam members.  The park is also conveniently located to most any and everything you may need.

We were only going to be there for one night and we really wanted to go to Buck Owen's Crystal Palace.  Mr. W had looked up the schedule a few weeks back and we thought that a Texas band was going to be there last night.  But, they will be there Friday night.  It was a "have to do" thing no matter what, so we put on our boots and headed over there.

They have a restaurant in the dance hall so you can have dinner.  On the nights that you have to buy reserved tickets, they have a limited "concert" menu, but still serve dinner.  When we called to make reservations, they told us that the band would be playing 7:00-9:00.  We arrived right at 7:00.

This place is a museum of Buck Owens and "friends".  There is trophy case after trophy case of hats, outfits, boots, guitars, music, playbills, album covers, etc. from Buck and some of his "friends" like Johnny Cash, Dwight Yokum, Roy Clark, and Merle Haggard, to mention a few.

They turned the lights off in the dance hall when the band started and so you can't really see the cases in the dance hall, nor take pictures very easily.  I wish we would have arrived earlier so we could have looked around at each case a little closer and taken some pictures. But, who knew?

They had these statues made from metal throughout the place of Buck and his friends.  They were very well done and were very detailed. George Strait even had a Texas star and a state of Texas shaped pin on his guitar strap.

Buck Owens with some of his memorabilia behind him

Garth Brooks had his signature ear microphone

Johnny Cash with his long coat, guitar and Bible

The band performing was The North Forty.  They were from the Bakersfield area and must be regulars because people in the audience were hollering things at them and they were replying.  They were actually pretty good.  They played a mix of songs they had written and did cover songs of some classic country. Both were good to dance to.

The band

Mr. W and I doing a little two-stepping.  Besides Jim and Terri, there was 1 other couple there with boots and dancing the two-step.  

When our waitress came to take our order, she asked where we were from.  I can't imagine how she knew we were from somewhere else when I spoke???? We told her Texas and she said she had lived in Katy when she was very young and doesn't remember much about it.  There was young couple sitting at the table next to us and they told us that they are getting ready to move to Waco. So, we told them what we knew about Waco and that area of Texas.  We told them that the people in Texas are friendly.  So, all you people in the Waco area, be friendly to any new people moving in around the end of this month!

One interesting thing was Buck's car was hanging on a wall behind the bar.  We went to take pictures and a man standing by the bar told Mr. W that Buck use to drive that car around town.  This guy worked at a grocery store when he was a teenager and Buck came to the grocery store and was always driving that car.




Before we knew it, it was 9:00 and they were closing.  They are open later on Friday and Saturday nights.  The food was sucky but the dancing was great.  Mr. W told me that you don't go there for the food.  You go for the experience.  I guess he is right.  It was fun.  I guess you could say that we walked (and danced) the streets of Bakersfield.

As you enter

On the dance floor


Two timer!!!! Haha!

Upcoming Events
Whiskey Myers is from Texas



Monday, April 2, 2018

DEATH VALLEY

We have been in Pahrump, Nevada since last Tuesday.  We came to Pahrump to attend a Reunion Rally of RV Dreams attendees.  RV Dreams is a blog turned business done by Howard and Linda Payne.  They started full-timing back in 2005 and Howard keeps a very detailed blog.  He has all kinds of information about full-timing on his blog and they started doing educational rallies several years ago to help those that want to start full-timing.  Anyway, we decided to attend the rally.  There were several couples who had been at the same educational rally we had gone to in 2014.  It was nice to see them again and share travel stories.  We also met some new couples, which was also nice.

We stayed at Wineridge RV park, which fortunate for me, was at a winery!  We participated in a dinner one night put on by the park and they serve wine from the winery.  You got 3 glasses of wine with your dinner.  So, you got a REALLY good tasting of 3 of their wines.  I went one day and actually did a tasting at the winery.  It was a very nice RV park.

When the rally was over, we moved a whopping 3 miles down the road to Preferred RV Park.  We are staying Passport America so we are getting our site for half price.  This is a very nice park too.  

Pahrump is very close to Death Valley National Park.  When Mr. W was planning the trip, Death Valley was immediately on our list.  I don't know about you, but every time we told someone that we were going there, we got the same reaction, which was no reaction.  When we travel, we always try to find someone who has been where we are headed.  There is nothing like first hand experience and word of mouth of things to do and not do, things that are beautiful and not so much, places to definitely not miss and those to be sure and miss.  However, when we said Death Valley, everyone just shook their head and said, "That's nice."  So, we went not knowing what to expect.

Unfortunately, we only had 1 full day to see what we could.  Death Valley is the largest national park outside of Alaska. Now, I know how big Yellowstone is and I know how big Big Bend is and there is no way you can touch seeing everything in those 2 parks in 1 day.  Death Valley is bigger and we have 1 day?  

We decided to enter the park through Shoshone.  What a throwback little town.  How many of you have seen the movie Cars?  Well, that's what it reminded me of.  It had the remodeled motel that looked like a motel in the 60s.  The museum there looked like an old gas station, complete with a rusted car out front.



The park straddles the line between Nevada and California.  It is the hottest, driest, and lowest of all the national parks in the US. The lowest place is Badwater Basin which is 282 feet below sea level.  Mr. W and I both had a slight headache when we got that far below sea level.  

A group of European-Americans got stuck here in 1849 trying to find a short-cut to the California gold mines.  They are who named the valley even though only 1 in their party died.  Several short-lived boom towns sprang up during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to mine gold and silver. The only long-term profitable ore to be mined was borax, which was transported out of the valley with twenty-mule teams. The twenty-mule teams were actually 18 mules and 2 horses. The valley later became the subject of books, radio programs, television series, and movies. Tourism blossomed in the 1920s, when resorts were built around Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek. Death Valley National Monument was declared in 1933 and the park was substantially expanded and became a national park in 1994.

We stopped in the middle of the road to take a picture and a coyote came out of the brush and ran up next to my door.  He stood there looking up and I think he was waiting for me to give him something to eat.  I think people must be feeding him.  People, don't feed the animals! He was not scared of me and nothing seemed to scare him.  He stayed right there until we decided to leave.



See how he blends into the surroundings.

The day started out clear, blue skies and slowly turned into cloudy skies with a lot of haze.  It helped it stay a little cooler but wreaked havoc on picture taking. The section called Artist's Drive (a 9 mile one-way loop) was beautiful.  I must say that whoever designed the road through that area had to have an artistic eye.  Every time you turned a corner, there was an artistic shot waiting to be taken.  Very pretty.


Artist's Pallette

Road through Artist's Drive



We went to the Visitor's Center at Furnace Creek.  There is a BEAUTIFUL hotel there called The Inn.  It reminds me of pictures I have seen of Hotel California.  It sits at sea level and on a ledge that looks out over the valley that is below sea level.  When the sun sets, it turns The Inn orange and it looks like it is on fire.  Really, it does the whole area.  Thus, the name Furnace Creek. However, this place is also an oasis in the desert.  There is a golf course, general store, post office, gas station, several campgrounds, another hotel call The Ranch, a diner, and a trading post.


The Diner

In the middle of the road
Golf course

Speaking of golf courses, there is an area called Devil's Golf Course.  It is an immense area of rock salt eroded by wind and rain into jagged spires.  It is so incredibly serrated that "only the devil could play golf on such rough links."


The Devil's Golf Course

To say that there is very diverse scenery in Death Valley is an understatement.  There are also several hikes you can take.  We really didn't have time to do any hikes. Be sure you bring LOTS of water if you plan to hike.  Cell phones and GPS are great tools, but they won't work in the park out on hikes.  There is service around the Visitor's Center but not many other places in the park. So, be prepared. 

I hope someday to spend a little more time in the park.  Hopefully, it will be a little cooler time and we can do some hiking.  Go see it!